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Rural Chinese Schools Adopt Technology, Distance Learning

Small schools in southwest China, many of which are rural, have adopted technology and distance learning to offer more courses and utilize new resources, according to a recent story in China Daily written by Xinhua, the official state-run press agency.

China's small, rural schools face many of the same issues that rural schools in America face, including a lack of teachers, outdated technology, and challenges with Internet bandwidth or connectivity. The small schools in southwest China were the last in the country to receive digital resources like computers, electronic whiteboards, and satellite receivers, as part of a two-year nationwide push to improve digital access.

The article highlights one school in Xinmin village, which has only one teacher for its 22 students in grades 1-3. At that school, distance education has allowed students access to more courses, including some compulsory courses.

In an article published last year by The New York Times, the roughly 60 million rural Chinese students are referred to as "'left-behind' children", who tend to live with grandparents while their parents pursue work opportunities in more urban areas. In China, students must complete nine years of education before taking exams that determine college admissions, which means rural students in poor, under-resourced schools are often at a disadvantage. "Rural students stand virtually no chance when competing academically with their urban counterparts," Jiang Nengjie, an independent filmmaker who completed a documentary on the topic, told The New York Times. 

In the United States, the connectivity gap has received more attention in recent years as new, nationwide online assessments have been adopted in conjunction with the Common Core State Standards. In December, the Federal Communications Commission voted to increase the amount of funding available for the E-Rate program, which aims to ensure all schools and libraries in America have access to the Internet.

Still, many rural schools have struggled to upgrade technology and bandwidth with limited budgets. Many rural schools that have acquired more technology have relied on devices and programs to provide distance learning options, dual enrollment courses, or help students and families access job and college resources and boost college enrollment and persistence rates.

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